Do you know what you are going to do in approximately four weeks’ time? You are probably sitting amongst family members and exchange Christmas presents.
Did you just sigh?
For many of us, finding gifts for Christmas is a tedious exercise, and, ironically, we end up being mad at the very person to whom we are supposed to bring joy with our gift, just because they exist, just because they are part of the people we have to offer something, just because we are so stressed out by the process! But it really hasn’t to be that way!
Wouldn’t it be nice if this year you were that person who gets it right?
Who finds the perfect gift, that gift which makes the adults say “Wow”, the children’s eyes sparkle and even draws a “Merci, c’est joli” and a thin-lipped smile from your sour aunt Laetitia, who only ever smiles when looking at her mops. Whose presents are classy without being boring, thoughtful without being over the top and fun without being goofy?
Did you just sigh again?
Now, don’t hate me, but I love giving gifts! Over the years and decades I have given all kinds of weird and wonderful gifts to friends and family….through trial and (sometimes very embarrassing) error, my gifts have become more interesting, more appropriate and more elegant. Plus you’ll never see me running through the stores on December 22 at 8 pm, hectically crossing off items from a crumpled list!
15 Classy Clues for the Perfect Christmas Present
- Start early. I’ve been known to buy my first Christmas gifts in August. Yes, you are right, that’s over the top! To my defence, I do it because I enjoy this so much, not because I have organisational OCD, and: having a vast choice, time to think, shops and shop assistants all to myself – in my book that’s enough reasons to leave the house early!
- Think on paper. If on September 1st you have an epiphany about the purr-fect gift for your sister-in-law, don’t believe for a minute that you will remember what it was three months later! Scribble your ideas into your agenda as soon as they pop up. Or better still, have a booklet where you note what gifts you gave which year to whom – lest you and your Dad don’t mind playing the “I-know-you do-love-ties-with-exotic-animal-prints” game year after year. I’ve kept track of all my gifts for the last 15 years, and this practise alone has proved invaluable for my sanity and my budget (plus I enjoy becoming sentimental each time I thumb through it).
- Before you write your list or head out to the stores, take a moment and call back the best memories you have with the person you are planning to get a gift for. What did you do together and what makes this such a fond memory? What does it tell you about this person?
- Now imagine yourself handing over the gift to the other person. What’s the story your gift is telling? Because: everything tells a story. They way we eat, drink, dress, walk and talk tells a story, and so does every gift we make. What is the story you want to tell with your gift?
- Make it special. You are putting time and effort into finding a gift, you may as well make it special. The more thoughtful your gift, the more the other will appreciate it. Remember, we are all unique and special and we all crave to be seen and treated this way.
- What do you want to address in the receiver? Their sense of fun? Their desire for freedom? Their love of luxury? Their commitment to nature? Their joy of fashion? Address the part of them that you like (you uncle Max may get on everyone’s nerves when he starts to belch out theories about the current state of the economy, but he is charming as soon as he gets in front of a stove. Get him a cookbook, come together in the kitchen and create fabulous meals and good memories).
- What do you want your gift to tell about you? Like it or not, your gift is also telling a story about you. About your care, your phantasy, your tact, your love, your values.
- OK, you diligently went through all the above and you have still NO idea what to get? Ask them. Yes, you may. Rather than just getting anything (see no.5), it’s far better to tell a person “I really tried to find something that would give you pleasure, and I do want to offer you a gift, but I’m at a loss.” If they refuse to come up with something, don’t be put off. Keep the conversation flowing, find out what they think about Christmas, what their plans are, what they are looking forward to do during the holidays etc. Keep going until you or they have come up with something.
- Don’t know better. If your 9-year-old wants a pink sweater with slimey-green polka dots from the special brand everyone in school raves about, so be it. It doesn’t have to be to your taste. Only refuse a wish if you have a very good reason to do so – and then try to talk it through before Christmas, esp. with a child.
- Don’t be cheap. Being cheap is so not elegant! (Do I have to say – again – that this has nothing to do with how much money you spend?). You can give elegant, thoughtful gifts hardly spending a dime that will make the receiver squeal with delight, and you can spend a fortune and come across as cheap. A hint: rather than buying half a dozen knick-knacks so that you have several presents to show, don’t be afraid to put the same amount of money on one really great, classy item (think: one cashmere sweater, luxury perfume, special edition book). One _really_ luxurious item will make most people feel so special and valued! A bunch of somethings never will.
- Speaking of which…Don’t buy ten identical chocolate boxes for everybody in the family. ‘Nuff said.
- Buy for them, not for you. If you have been raving all year about that new coffee machine and then your husband finds it under his tree, he just MIGHT see through the scheme. Fine…but don’t complain if the following year you’ll get a circular saw for your Christmas!
- … do take care of your gift wrapping. I lo-o-o-ove gift wrapping, and make it a ritual every year, complete with music, candles, red wine, cookies and a fire in the chimney. If you are all thumbs, check out tutorials on Youtube, have your things gift-wrapped in the shop or ask your best friend over, she’ll be happy to help and catch up with you at the same time. Remember, half of the pleasure of receiving a gift is in the wrapping!
- Be realistic: sometimes a voucher is the best option (especially for teenagers in a phase where feel they have to dislike everything that comes from their parents)
- No wild experiments. Few are the people who are happy to receive a puppy that’ll turn into a 150 pound dog or a voucher to go bungee jumping or an invitation for a restaurant that serves grilled insects without prior warning!
So, now I’m curious: how do you feel about Christmas gifts?
Let’s hear about them in the comments!
Merry Advent, Rima